Addressing “Aging Out” of the Wake Up New York Sangha
Dear Sangha, I am writing to share happy news from New York. The young adult Wake Up Sangha is growing with the collective community in a new and beautiful way. It is a transition I have been waiting for, and it is a delight to watch it bloom and to share it with you.
Wake Up New York started in 2012, after a group of monastics came through to do a Wake Up tour in New York City and other east coast cities. Some of the young people from the Brooklyn Sangha and the Riverside Sangha got together to help plan the events. The events included days of mindfulness in the city and at local colleges. After the tour, those same young organizers started Wake Up New York.
As Wake Up New York grew, several patterns emerged which made it a joyful refuge for young adults but did not help increase its connection to the all-ages Sangha. One clear pattern is that young adults are strongly drawn to other young adults; meeting like-minded friends and sharing common experiences motivates many to attend. Another characteristic is the highly exploratory and experimental nature of young adults; changing spiritual practices, friendships, and relationships are the norm for those who are still developing their path. These shared experiences provide companionship, connection, and relevant insights amongst the members, which has enormous value since loneliness is so common in the generation. A final observation is that this age group (especially in New York City) is highly transient; jobs, school, training, families, and careers create a dizzying amount of transitions. Members often practice regularly for 3, 6, or 12 months, and then move on, which does not give them the chance to get to know more of the community. In its entire existence, Wake Up New York has amazingly seemed to be in a constant state of joy or bliss. These characteristics of Wake Up New York have made it an oasis of practice for young adults, but this comfort has led the group away from reaching out to the other age groups, where there is valuable experience for handling deep suffering and nourishing continued practice.
A second major drawback is that the Wake Up members themselves grow out of the Sangha, and can end up leaving. Wake Up Sanghas usually focus their outreach to young adults between the ages of 18 to 35 years. For Wake Up New York, as beloved Sangha members approached 36, discussions often ensued regarding whether the age range should be expanded to keep the group together, but so far the group has decided to continue its focus on this particular age group. These members “graduated” out of Wake Up and still participated by taking supportive roles for the younger Wake Up members, but no longer took an active core role in the group. Other Wake Up members settled down with families and did not relate as much to the young adult lifestyle. This aging out has resulted in a loss of experience in the Wake Up group, and because the graduates did not always build a strong connection to the all-ages Sangha during their time with Wake Up, the graduates did not always continue their practice with another sangha.
So, here is the good news. Today there are enough Wake Up graduates to start a new Sangha. They have organized a public space to practice in midtown. There has been a general desire to have an accessible midtown Sangha for years, but till now there have not been enough committed practitioners to start a new Sangha in an area with such difficult real estate. Now there will be an all-ages Sangha in midtown, one that happens to be led by facilitators in their 30’s. I feel that because Wake Up New York has helped bring so many new people into the mindfulness community, we now have enough people to support an all-ages Sangha in the center of the city. I anticipate that this new Sangha will combine the joyful exuberance of Wake Up with the experience and wisdom of the collective community. It may also provide future Wake Up graduates with a new spiritual home as they age out. The new Sangha members have already agreed that the new Sangha should be named “The Middle Way Sangha”.
On behalf of Wake Up New York, I offer any merit of our practice for the happiness of all beings and all generations.
To learn more about Wake Up New York or get in contact with the Middle Way Sangha, visit here.
Jenny Hamp, True Precious Treasure, practices with the Rock Blossom and Wake Up Sanghas in New York City. For work, Jenny is a mechanical engineer and designs building controls systems. Her favorite past times include gardening and photography.